Facebook as service intermediary: Australian Court allows online service

In the first example of its kind, the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory allowed notice of default judgment to be served on a number of defendants via Facebook. According to court reports, Master Harper made an order for substituted service via Facebook, ordering that the defendants could be validly served by sending a message (presumably a wall post or personal message) to their ‘Facebook pages’ which notified them ‘of the entry of and the terms of the judgment’.

This is an interesting example of an emerging role for social networks: default communications intermediaries. Courts, litigants and even employers are increasingly turning to online profiles and messaging services to locate and monitor individuals that can’t be found in another medium. Often, this is because the individuals concerned forget that their status updates, image uploads, full names and often more are visible to the world. What makes this case particularly interesting is that Facebook is here acting as a conduit not merely for information, but for the coercive processes of the Court. If the defendants, having been served with notice of default judgment, fail to overturn or challenge its validity, it will become final. In the absence of an alternative method of service, Facebook is involved in a critical step along the path to a final remedy.